Oct 092015

In the tumultuous real estate market of the 2000s, some U.S. homebuyers found wealth while others took big hits. But no matter when they bought, most black first-time homeowners lost money, a Johns Hopkins University study found.

In a study published in the journal Real Estate Economics, public policy professor Sandra J. Newman and researcher C. Scott Holupka found that race was a key determinant of which low- and moderate-income people who bought first homes during the decade made money. During the Great Recession, white homebuyers on average lost money but black ones lost considerably more. Even during the boom years, when white buyers on average increased their wealth by 50 percent, black buyers lost 47 percent of their wealth.

“They say that in real estate timing is everything but blacks had a loss across the decade — even when their purchase time was impeccable,” said Newman, a professor at the university’s Institute for Health and Social Policy. “They would have done better if they’d stayed renters.”

The main factor in whether white buyers made money on their homes was when they bought. But timing had little to do with it for black buyers, the researchers found. Instead, the driver was the neighborhoods they bought into – and often those areas were predominantly black, with lower housing prices, lower appreciation and declining rates of homeownership. For black buyers, their education and marital status were also key predictors of how the purchase would affect their assets, though neither influenced the return on investment of white buyers.

The researchers analyzed data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, looking in particular at how the net worth of renters was affected by buying a home at different points in the decade — in the wake of the 2001 recession, in 2003 when the market was heating up, at the height of the boom in 2005 and at the onset of the Great Recession in 2007.

The study focused on first-time buyers, long-time targets of campaigns to increase wealth through homeownership. About 40 percent of all homebuyers are first-time buyers and more than 60 percent of those buyers are low-to moderate income.

The survey data highlights stark disparities by race:

During the Great Recession, between 2007 and 2009, the net worth of new white homebuyers dropped 33 percent, while new black homebuyers lost 43 percent of their wealth.

During the boom, between 2005 and 2007, white first-time buyers enjoyed net worth gains of 50 percent while new black homebuyers lost 47 percent. In dollar terms, while whites were gaining on average about $24,000, blacks were losing $16,911.

“We had to convince ourselves that during one of the hottest housing markets ever, our numbers were showing black buyers still experienced losses,” Holupka said. “It was sort of stunning.”

To project the number of years it would take homebuyers who bought during the bust to recoup their investment, the researchers ran simulations. For white buyers who bought in 2007, they projected it would take from three to 32 years, depending on the market, to get their money back. “It will take blacks more than twice as long,” Newman said, about seven years in the best-case scenario to about 74 years in a weak market.


Oct 082015

Breaking the anxiety cycle

 Breaking the anxiety cycle  Recently  Comments Off on Breaking the anxiety cycle
Oct 082015

A woman who won’t drive long distances because she has panic attacks in the car. A man who has contamination fears so intense he cannot bring himself to use public bathrooms. A woman who can’t go to church because she fears enclosed spaces. All of these people have two things in common: they have an anxiety disorder. They’re also parents.

Each of these parents sought help because they struggle with anxiety, and want to prevent their children from suffering the same way. Children of anxious parents are at increased risk for developing the disorder. Yet that does not need to be the case, according to new research by UConn Health psychiatrist Golda Ginsburg.

Ginsburg and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University tested a one-year family therapy intervention as part of a study of 136 families with at least one parent with anxiety and at least one child between the ages of 6 and 13.

The study, published online September 25 in The American Journal of Psychiatry, found family-based intervention works. Only 9 percent of children who participated in a therapist-directed family intervention developed anxiety after one year, compared to 21 percent in a group that received written instruction, and 31 percent in the group that did not receive any therapy or written instruction.

“The finding underscores the vulnerability of offspring of anxious parents,” says Ginsburg. She wants to do something about that vulnerability. “If we can identify kids at risk, let’s try and prevent this.”

Anxiety tends to run in families, with up to 50 percent of children of anxious parents growing up to be anxious themselves. Until now, anxiety prevention programs have been largely conducted in schools, with only modest success.

For an anxious child, meeting a new peer for the first time can be paralyzing. Trying an unfamiliar food might summon worries of being poisoned. To cope with this kind of debilitating anxiety, kids start avoiding whatever provokes the anxious feelings. If they’re afraid of the dark, they might insist on sleeping with all the lights on. If they’re afraid of failing, they won’t try new things. In extreme cases, they may refuse even to leave the house.

“Anxiety and fear are protective and adaptive,” says Ginsburg. “But in anxious kids they may not be, because these children have thoughts about danger and threat when there really isn’t one.”

Both inborn temperament and life experiences play a role, she says. The more negative experiences a person has growing up, the greater the likelihood he or she will struggle with anxiety as an adult. But there is also a component of anxiety that is learned, taught inadvertently by parents who model the behavior. It’s these learned behaviors and thought patterns that interventions can help change.

Most of the adults who participated in the study struggled in school and didn’t tell anyone. They didn’t raise their hands, or they got sick before exams. They might not have had any friends. As adults, their anxiety still limits their activities and sometimes those of their family members, and they are very motivated to help their children avoid the same.

In the study, some of the families participated in eight, hour-long sessions with a trained therapist over a period of two months. Others were just given a pamphlet that contained general information about anxiety disorders and treatments. Still others received nothing at all.

The families who participated in therapy were taught to identify the signs of anxiety and how to reduce it. They practiced problem-solving skills, and exercised safe exposures to whatever made their child anxious.

One of the ways to reduce anxiety is the reality check – learning to recognize when a fear is healthy and worth paying attention to (a growling dog) or unhealthy (a suspicion that the birthday cake is poisoned).

“We taught the kids how to identify scary thoughts, and how to change them,” Ginsburg says. For example, if a child is afraid of cats and encounters one in the street, the child can first identify the scary thought: “That cat is going to hurt me.” Then the child can test that thought – is it likely that the cat will hurt me? No, the cat doesn’t look angry. It isn’t baring its teeth or hissing, it’s just sitting there. OK, I can walk past that cat and it won’t do anything.

In general, children who participated in the intervention had lower anxiety overall than children who did not participate in the intervention with their families.

Now the researchers have funding from that National Institutes of Health for a follow-up to see whether the effects are maintained over time. Ginsburg wonders whether there would be value in providing regular checkups for families on the mental health issue. Along those lines, she is considering approaching insurers about offering this kind of service to families at risk, to see if it lowers their healthcare costs overall.

“I’d say we need to change our model of mental health to a checkup method,” Ginsburg says. “Like going to the dentist every six months.”


Oct 082015

jealous possessive boyfriendIf your partner has sex with someone else, it is considered infidelity – even if no emotions are involved. But it is also considered infidelity when your significant other develops a close personal relationship with someone else, even if there is no sex or physical intimacy involved.

A recent Norwegian study shows that men and women react differently to various types of infidelity. Whereas men are most jealous of sexual infidelity, so-called emotional infidelity is what makes women the most jealous. Evolutionary psychology may help explain why this may be.

Significant gender differences

“Men and women’s psychology is similar in most areas – but not when it comes to reproduction,” says Associate Professor Mons Bendixen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Psychology.

He has teamed up with NTNU Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair and Professor David Buss at the University of Texas, Austin to publish their study of jealousy involving more than 1,000 participants.

Although the evolutionary psychologists had expected women and men to respond differently to questions about infidelity and jealousy, they were surprised that the differences were so strong.

Norway is one of the world’s countries with the greatest degree of gender equality. Fathers are expected to be there for their children, from changing diapers to childcare. Norwegian paternity leave and other legal regulations send the message that men should invest time in their families. At the same time support for single parents makes it possible to raise children alone if dads don’t pull their weight.

And yet, even in Norway’s culture of substantial gender equality, large sex differences persist in what triggers jealousy in men and women.

Is he the child’s father?

Recent research on jealousy considers two main types of infidelity: Having sex with a person outside the relationship, or developing an emotional attachment to a person outside the relationship

Psychology has two contrasting theoretical perspectives on men and women’s emotional responses to infidelity. The first has its roots in cultural gender roles while the other takes an evolutionary psychology perspective.

The first perspective maintains that in a culture with a high degree of equality, men and women interpret the world similarly because of more equality in socialization and gender roles, than is the case in a culture with a low degree of equality. According to this approach, the human mind is largely shaped by the different roles that cultures assign to women and men and the experiences they have in those roles.

The evolutionary perspective is different. According to this approach, men and women over thousands of generations have had to adapt to different challenges that are related to reproduction. Infidelity is one such challenge. A man must decide whether he really is the father of his partner’s child, and if he should choose to invest all his protection and status resources on this child. Since the dawn of time men have grappled with paternity insecurity, since fertilization occurs inside a woman’s body.

According to the evolutionary psychology explanation, men’s jealousy is an emotional reaction to signs of sexual infidelity. The jealousy serves to reduce the chances that his partner is cheating, since he then monitors her more closely.

Our ancestral mothers chose carefully

It’s a different story for the child’s mother. She knows for sure that she is the child’s mother, but she must ensure that the child’s father will provide their offspring with food and the security and social status it needs. The greatest threat for the woman is not that the man has sex with other women, but that he spends time and resources on women other than her.

Women today are descendants of women who over thousands of generations have reacted with jealousy to men who sent signals that they were less invested in them. Evolutionary psychologists believe that women are especially sensitive to signs that the man is devoting time and attention to other women.

According to Bendixen, women who were indifferent to whether a man was emotionally attached to other women were more likely to have to take care of the child without his resources. Men who were indifferent to whether the woman had sex with others and who therefore invested resources on other men’s children, ended up passing on fewer of their genes. We are descendants of men and women who have responded appropriately to these threats, says Bendixen.

He adds that neither past experiences with infidelity nor whether we are in a relationship seem to affect men’s and women’s reactions to infidelity.

“The cultural gender role perspective believes that jealousy is learned, but we feel confident that these reactions are mechanisms that are part of an evolved human mind, given comparable findings across several nations,” Bendixen says.

Two different measurement methods

In the recent study, published in the November 2015 issue of Personality and Individual Differences, participants were randomly given one of four versions of a questionnaire about jealousy. Half the respondents were asked to check off whether the emotional or sexual aspect of infidelity was the most upsetting to them in four different infidelity scenarios – a so-called “forced choice” paradigm.

The other half rated the scenarios using a continuous measure; they were asked to report on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very) how jealous or upset they were when the scenarios described either emotional or sexual infidelity.

In addition, the order of the questions was changed in half of the forms, so some respondents were asked about their experiences with infidelity before they answered the scenario questions. The remaining respondents answered these questions after the scenario questions. This manipulation turned out to have no effect on how participants responded.

“As in two of our previous studies, we found clear sex differences in the jealousy responses among those who had to choose which aspect of infidelity was most upsetting to them. We also found similar sex differences when we used a continuous measure paradigm. These sex differences are remarkable, since they were obtained using two alternative methods of measurement, and in a highly egalitarian nation with high paternal investment expectancy,” Bendixen said.



Oct 082015

Gliomas are aggressive brain tumors arising from the brain’s supporting glial cells. They account for about a third of all brain tumors, and hold the highest incidence and mortality rate among primary brain cancer patients, creating an urgent need for effective treatments. Certain antidepressants already in the market could lower the risk of gliomas, but there has been little evidence to support their use in patients. Now, scientists at EPFL have discovered that tricyclic antidepressants combined with anticoagulant drugs can actually slow down gliomas by causing the cancer cells to eat themselves. The study is published in Cancer Cell.

Gliomas arise from the supportive cells of the brain, called “glial cells” when they begin to grow uncontrollably. The normal function of glial cells are to keep the brain’s neurons in place and help them function properly. There are three types of glial cells, and glioma tumors often contain a mix of these.

Despite their aggressiveness and high mortality, there is currently little in the way of treatment for gliomas. Since the early 2000s, scientists have considered a category of antidepressants – called “tricyclic” – as a potentially new drug that could lower the risk of gliomas. However, a small clinical trial showed them to offer little benefit to glioma patients.

Making gliomas eat themselves

The laboratory of Douglas Hanahan in the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) at EPFL approached the problem by combining tricyclic antidepressants with anticoagulant drugs (blood-thinners). In a study designed and spearheaded by postdoctoral fellow Ksenya Shchors, the scientists screened anti-depressants in combination with several commercially available drugs suspected to have complementary effects in killing glioma cells. The screening revealed a class of anticoagulants as the most likely ally; these drugs interfered with the signaling activity of a receptor expressed on platelets and coincidentally upregulated in glioma cells.

The team investigated the effects of the two drugs in mice with gliomas. The animals received a “combination therapy”, where they were given different doses of the drugs. The antidepressant was given orally, while the anticoagulant was injected 10-15 minutes later. Each combination therapy ran for five consecutive days.

The results showed that the drugs work together against the cancer cells. Specifically, the drugs disrupt a biochemical pathway in the glioma tumor cells that controls a mechanism known as “autophagy” – which literally means “to eat oneself”. Low-level, controlled autophagy is a recycling mechanism that actually helps a cell to survive under stressful conditions. But, at excessively high levels, it can be lethal to cells.

The two drugs disrupt ‘gate-keeper’ mechanisms that normally operate at two different places along the regulatory pathway to limit the intensity of autophagic recycling, causing the cells to hyper-activate autophagy, virtually eating themselves alive. Although each drug can stimulate autophagy by itself, neither has any significant impact on the mortality of the mice with glioma. But when the EPFL scientists combined the two drugs, the lifespan of the mice doubled. Notably, these two classes of generic drugs had thus found a new purpose: they were not targeting neurons to limit depression or platelets to limit coagulation, respectively; rather, they were being repurposed based on their coincidental and synergistic ability to cause excessive autophagy in glioma cells.

“It is exciting to envision that combining two relatively inexpensive and non-toxic classes of generic drugs holds promise to make a difference in the treatment of patients with lethal brain cancer,” says Douglas Hanahan. However, he warns that it is not clear yet if patients would benefit from such treatment. “This strategy is at an early stage and requires further more work to assess its full potential.” Following up on this, the team is now making plans for early clinical trials.


Oct 082015

 Research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business confirms that cellphones are damaging romantic relationships and leading to higher levels of depression.

James A. Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing, and Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, published their study – “My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners” – in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

For their study, the researchers conducted two separate surveys, accounting for a total of 453 adults in the U.S., to learn the relational effects of “Phubbing” – or “partner phone snubbing.” Phubbing is described in the study as the extent to which people use or are distracted by their cellphones while in the company of their relationship partners.

“What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction,” Roberts explained. “These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”

The first survey of 308 adults helped Roberts and David develop a “Partner Phubbing Scale,” a nine-item scale of common smartphone behaviors that respondents identified as snubbing behaviors.

The resulting scale includes statements such as:

  • My partner places his or her cellphone where they can see it when we are together.
  • My partner keeps his or her cellphone in their hand when he or she is with me.
  • My partner glances at his/her cellphone when talking to me.
  • If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his or her cellphone.

The development of the scale is significant, the study states, because it demonstrates that “Phubbing is conceptually and empirically different from attitude toward cellphones, partner’s cellphone involvement, cellphone conflict, and cellphone addiction.”

The second survey of 145 adults measured Pphubbing among romantic couples. This was done, in part, by asking those surveyed to respond to the nine-item scale developed in the first survey.

Other areas of measurement in the second survey included cellphone conflict, relationship satisfaction, life satisfaction, depression and interpersonal attachment style (e.g., “anxious attachment” describes people who are less secure in their relationship).

Results of the survey showed that:

  • 46.3 percent of the respondents reported being phubbed by their partner
  • 22.6 percent said this phubbing caused conflict in their relationships
  • 36.6 percent reported feeling depressed at least some of the time

Overall, only 32 percent of respondents stated that they were very satisfied with their relationship, the study shows.

“In everyday interactions with significant others, people often assume that momentary distractions by their cell phones are not a big deal,” David said. “However, our findings suggest that the more often a couple’s time spent together is interrupted by one individual attending to his/her cellphone, the less likely it is that the other individual is satisfied in the overall relationship.

“Specifically, momentary distractions by one’s cellphone during time spent with a significant other likely lowers the significant other’s satisfaction with their relationship, and could lead to enhanced feelings of depression and lower well-being of that individual. Thus, when spending time with one’s significant other, we encourage individuals to be cognizant of the interruptions caused by their cellphones, as these may well be harmful to their relationship.”

Roberts explained that those with anxious attachment styles (less secure in their relationship) were more bothered (reported higher levels of cellphone conflict) than those with more secure attachment styles (more secure in their relationship). In addition, lower levels of relationship satisfaction – stemming, in part, from being Pphubbed – led to decreased life satisfaction that, in turn, led to higher levels of depression.

Given the ever-increasing use of smartphones to communicate between romantic partners, the study helps to understand how the use of smartphones can impact not only satisfaction with romantic relationships, but also personal well-being, Roberts said.

“When you think about the results, they are astounding,” Roberts said. “Something as common as cellphone use can undermine the bedrock of our happiness – our relationships with our romantic partners.”

In addition to its journal publication, this research provided foundational material for three chapters in Roberts’ new book, “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?”



Oct 082015

Psychologist Brick Johnstone in his office at Mizzou North (Old Ellis Fischel).

Psychologist Brick Johnstone in his office at Mizzou North (Old Ellis Fischel).

Individuals who blame karma for their poor health have more pain and worse physical and mental health, according to a new study from University of Missouri researchers. Targeted interventions to counteract negative spiritual beliefs could help some individuals decrease pain and improve their overall health, the researchers said.

“In general, the more religious or spiritual you are, the healthier you are, which makes sense,” said Brick Johnstone, a neuropsychologist and professor of health psychology in the MU School of Health Professions. “But for some individuals, even if they have even the smallest degree of negative spirituality – basically, when individuals believe they’re ill because they’ve done something wrong and God is punishing them – their health is worse.”

Johnstone and his colleagues studied nearly 200 individuals to find out how their spiritual beliefs affected their health outcomes. Individuals in the study had a range of health conditions, such as cancer, traumatic brain injury or chronic pain, and others were healthy. The researchers divided the individuals into two groups: a negative spirituality group that consisted of those who reported feeling abandoned or punished by a higher power, and a no negative spirituality group that consisted of people who didn’t feel abandoned or punished by a higher power. Participants answered questions about their emotional and physical health, including physical pain.

Those in the negative spirituality group reported significantly worse pain as well as worse physical and mental health while those with positive spirituality reported better mental health. However, even if individuals reported positive spiritual beliefs, having any degree of negative spiritual belief contributed to poorer health outcomes, the researchers found.

“Previous research has shown that about 10 percent of people have negative spiritual beliefs; for example, believing that if they don’t do something right, God won’t love them,” Johnstone said. “That’s a negative aspect of religion when people believe, ‘God is not supportive of me. What kind of hope do I have?’ However, when people firmly believe God loves and forgives them despite their shortcomings, they had significantly better mental health.”

Individuals with negative spiritual beliefs also reported participating in religious practices less frequently and having lower levels of positive spirituality and forgiveness. Interventions that help combat negative spiritual beliefs and promote positive spiritual beliefs could help some individuals improve their pain and their mental health, Johnstone said.

The study, “Relationships Between Negative Spiritual Beliefs and Health Outcomes for Individuals With Heterogeneous Medical Conditions,” was published in the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health. MU co-authors included Daniel Cohen from the Department of Religious Studies; Dong Pil Yoon from the School of Social Work; Laura H. Schopp from theDepartment of Health Psychology; and James Campbell from theDepartment of Family and Community Medicine. Angela Jones from St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, was the lead author, and Guy McCormack from Samuel Merritt College in San Francisco also contributed to the research.

Johnstone recently returned from Oxford University, where he studied the intersection of science and religion. Prior to his time at Oxford, Johnstone completed a nine-month fellowship with seven other scholars at the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton University, where he explored religious experience and moral identity. Johnstone recently served as a contributing expert for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, “Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Epidemiology and Rehabilitation,” which was presented to Congress.

Source: University of Missouri Health System

Oct 082015

Religious support, including care from congregations, religious counseling and assistance from pastors, is associated with better mental health outcomes for women and with better physical and mental health for men, according to a University of Missouri study. CREDIT: St. Katherine's Church -- UK

Religious support, including care from congregations, religious counseling and assistance from pastors, is associated with better mental health outcomes for women and with better physical and mental health for men, according to a University of Missouri study.
CREDIT: St. Katherine’s Church — UK

Individuals who practice religion and spirituality report better physical and mental health than those who do not.

To better understand this relationship and how spirituality/religion can be used for coping with significant health issues, University of Missouri researchers are examining what aspects of religion are most beneficial and for what populations. Now, MU health psychology researchers have found that religious and spiritual support improves health outcomes for both men and women who face chronic health conditions.

“Our findings reinforce the idea that religion/spirituality may help buffer the negative consequences of chronic health conditions,” said Stephanie Reid-Arndt, associate professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “We know that there are many ways of coping with stressful life situations, such as a chronic illness; involvement in religious/spiritual activities can be an effective coping strategy.”

Religious and spiritual support includes care from congregations, spiritual interventions, such as religious counseling and forgiveness practices, and assistance from pastors and hospital chaplains. The recent publication from the MU Center for Religion and the Professions research group, authored by Reid-Arndt, found that religious support is associated with better mental health outcomes for women and with better physical and mental health for men.

“Both genders benefit from social support – the ability to seek help from and rely on others – provided by fellow congregants and involvement in religious organizations,” said co-author Brick Johnstone, health psychology professor. “Encouragement to seek out religious and spiritual supports can assist individuals in coping with stress and physical symptoms related to health issues. Health care providers can urge patients to take advantage of these resources, which provide emotional care, financial assistance and opportunities for increased socialization.”

The study examined the role of gender in using spirituality/religiosity to cope with chronic health conditions and disabilities, including spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke and cancer. Using measures of religiousness/spirituality, general mental health and general health perception, the researchers found no differences between men and women in terms of self-reported levels of spiritual experiences, religious practices or congregational support. This finding contrasts with other studies that suggest women may be more spiritual or participate in religion more frequently than men.

“While women generally are more religious or spiritual than men, we found that both genders may increase their reliance on spiritual and religious resources as they face increased illness or disability,” Johnstone said.

For women, mental health is associated with daily spiritual experiences, forgiveness and religious/spiritual coping, the study found. This suggests that belief in a loving, supportive and forgiving higher power is related with positive mental coping for women with chronic conditions. For men, religious support – the perception of help, support and comfort from local congregations – was associated with better self-rated health.

Johnstone is director of the MU Spirituality and Health Research program. He has completed several studies examining the relationships that exist among religion, spirituality and health, particularly for individuals with different chronic disabling conditions and for those from different faith traditions.



Reduce stress – wash those dishes (mindfully).

 Reduce stress – wash those dishes (mindfully).  News  Comments Off on Reduce stress – wash those dishes (mindfully).
Oct 082015

A woman washes a plate using soapy water, a sponge and protective workwear.

 Washing those dreadful dishes after a long day seems like the furthest thing from relaxation. Or is it? Student and faculty researchers at Florida State University have found that mindfully washing dishes calms the mind and decreases stress.

Published in the journal Mindfulness,the study looked at whether washing dishes could be used as an informal contemplative practice that promotes a positive state of mindfulness — a meditative method of focusing attention on the emotions and thoughts of the present moment.

“I’ve had an interest in mindfulness for many years, both as a contemplative practitioner and a researcher,” said Adam Hanley, a doctoral candidate in FSU College of Education’s Counseling/School Psychology program and one of the study’s authors. “I was particularly interested in how the mundane activities in life could be used to promote a mindful state and, thus, increase overall sense of well-being.”

After conducting a study with 51 students, the researchers found that mindful dishwashers — those who focused on the smell of the soap, the warmth of the water, the feel of the dishes — reported a decrease in nervousness by 27 percent and an increase in mental inspiration by 25 percent. The control group, on the other hand, didn’t experience any benefits.

The research team also included Alia Warner and Vincent Delhili, doctoral candidates at Florida State; Angela Canto, assistant professor at Florida State; and Eric Garland, associate professor at University of Utah.

Source: Florida State University

I  also asked Adam a few questions by email in preparation for my spot with Tony Delroy. Here are his responses:


Thanks for your interest in the dishwashing study and that is exciting that the study may get some airplay in Australia.  My responses are below and if you would like some further clarification I would be happy to try again.

Is dishwashing likely to be easier to do mindfully than say gardening – or walking?


I hesitate to say that any practice type is easier. I think certain practice types resonate with certain people.  Since the study, a number of people have talked about how they’ve always experienced dishwashing as meditative.  Comparatively, a friend’s dad has mentioned gardening as his preferred practice and another friend naturally gravitates to walking meditation.  I think the beauty of informal practice is that there are seemingly endless ways to practice and everyone can tailor their practice to best meet their needs, engaging in activities that feel naturally meditative as well as previously identified unpleasurable tasks.


Can I offer our listeners any suggestions on how they might make dish washing less of a chore and more mindful – what do you think the critical instructions on mindfulness were for your subjects?


We adapted our instructions from Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness:


“. . . while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves. If while washing dishes, we think only of what we would rather do, hurrying to finish the dishes as if they were a nuisance, then we  . . . are sucked away into the future—and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”


It has also been suggested that approaching dishwashing mindfully may also be experienced as a compassionate act of nurturance for the self and others.  Cleaning as an act of service and loving-kindness.


Repetitive silent activities have long been thought to help with creativity – do you have a view on that?


I am not familiar with the literature on mindfulness and creativity directly.  However, mindfulness is believed to relax habitual cognitive patterns and biases (e.g., disrupt that “autopilot” sensation), reducing reflexive or reactive thoughts.  Less reflexivity appears to be consistent with more flexible responding, and this flexibility may be experienced as creativity.  The tendency of mindfulness practice to encourage awareness of the present moment, disengaging from thoughts of the past or plans for the future, may also afford the psychological space for greater spontaneity. Less rumination and worry would likely allow for more creativity.


Hope this message finds you well and thanks again for reaching out.



Oct 082015

Background with Musical NotesWe’re all familiar with the use of music as a tool of persuasion in advertising, writes Dr Christian Jarrett in Research Digest for the British Psychological Society.

There’s also research that’s looked at the social influence of lyrics – for example, there’s evidence that songs with antisocial lyrics can increase hostile and aggressive feelings, whereas positive lyrics such as in Michael Jackson’s Heal the World can reduce aggression. Positive music can also increase people’s willingness to do good deeds. Yet studies also show that positive music can have paradoxically negative outcomes, for example increasing people’s acceptance of messages endorsing harm to others. A new study published in the Psychology of Music takes this further by testing whether positive music increases people’s willingness to do bad things to others.

Naomi Ziv at The College of Management Academic Studies recruited 120 undergrad participants (24 men) to take part in what they thought was an investigation into the effects of background music on cognition. Consistent with the cover story, the students (tested one at a time) had to underline the vowels in a passage of text while music played in the background or, if they were in the control group, they completed the task in silence.

The students in the background music condition were exposed to one of three types of music. Some students heard James Brown’s I Got You (I Feel Good), chosen in pre-testing because people enjoyed it, found it positive, and were familiar with it:

Other students were played Elvis Crespo’s Suavemente, chosen because it was enjoyable, positive and familiar, but the participants wouldn’t be able to understand the Spanish lyrics:

Finally, another group of students were played an instrumental piece – Boston Horns’ Pink Polyester – chosen because it was enjoyable and positive but unfamiliar:

The key test came after the students had completed the underling task. With the music still playing in the background, the male researcher made the following request of the participants:
“There is another student who came especially to the college today to participate in the study, and she has to do it because she needs the credit to complete her course requirements. The thing is, I don’t feel like seeing her. Would you mind calling her for me and telling her that I’ve left and she can’t participate?”
A higher proportion of the students in the background music condition (65.6 per cent) than the no-music control condition (40 per cent) agreed to perform this task, which involved lying and would have left another student in hot water for not completing her course requirements. In fact if participants agreed to make the call, the researcher pretended to receive a text message to say the student wasn’t coming in to college after all. Focusing on the specific types of music, only James Brown and Elvis Crespo were associated with greater compliance, suggesting that music needs to be both liked and familiar to exert this persuasive effect.

A second study was similar but this time the research assistant was female, she recruited 63 volunteers (31 men) in the student cafeteria (whereas the first study involved students participating as a course requirement), and there were just two conditions: either Elvis Crespo’s Suavemente in the background or no music. After the underling task, the female researcher made the following request:
“Could I ask you to do me a favor? There is a student from my class who missed the whole of the last semester because she was very sick. I promised her I would give her all the course material and summaries. She came here especially today to get them, but actually I don’t feel like giving them to her after all. Could you call her for me and tell her I didn’t come here?”
This time, 81.8 per cent of the students in the background music condition agreed to perform this request, compared with just 33 per cent of those in the control condition. The findings are all the more striking given that the researchers’ requests in both experiments were based on such thin justifications (e.g. “I don’t feel like giving them to her after all”).

Why should positive background music render us more willing to perform harmful acts? Ziv isn’t sure – she measured her participants’ mood in a questionnaire but found no differences between the music and control groups. She speculates that perhaps familiar, positive music fosters feelings of closeness among people through a shared emotional experience. “In the setting of the present studies,” she said, “measuring connectedness or liking to the experimenter would have been out of place, but it is possible that a social bond was created.”


Source: British Psychological Society

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